By Tris Wykes

Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021

LEBANON – Hartford High boys soccer coach Kevin Guillbault was frank Tuesday after his squad was thumped, 6-0, by Lebanon during its penultimate preseason scrimmage. 

“We’re laying the foundation for the future,” said the 10th-year bench boss, whose team returns only two starters (Nolan McMahon, Joey Beggs) after losing 12 players to graduation. “I’m excited for the next few seasons, because I think we’ll have success. Just not against these guys.”

Hartford High’s Matt Hayes, left, and Nolan McMahon, tangle with Lebanon’s Will McGee. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

The Hurricanes not only had to contend with the powerful Raiders, but with unfamiliarity within their own ranks. Seven players from Windsor High joined the Hartford program Monday after it was determined the Yellowjackets didn’t have enough to represent their school. Thirty of Hartford’s 46 players are underclassmen.

Guillbault was pretty sure he knew the newcomers’ names, but wasn’t as confident on pronouncing them. It’s clear, however, that his troops need plenty of seasoning. Hartford had to chase the ball all over the field Tuesday, winning few 50/50 chances and struggling on defense from the start. 

“We lost the first quarter, 2-0. We lost the second quarter, 1-0. Now we have to go out and hold them scoreless the rest of the way,” Guillbault told the Hurricanes at halftime. “Then we’ll have done what we came here for, to get better as we go.”

Lebanon High’s Duncan Green is flanked by Hartford’s Gabe Guillette, left, and Adam Dufour. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Although the hosts doubled their score by the scrimmage’s end, there were some good signs for the visitors. Junior goalkeeper Jacob Singelais, a Windsor import, looked sharp in the second half and the teammates in front of him kept battling despite being overmatched in sweltering heat and humidity.

“I liked our communication but we have to execute better,” said Guillbault, whose team was 3-6-1 last season and exited in the first round of the playoffs after suffering its sixth one-goal setback of the campaign. 

“We hesitate with the ball and put guys in tough spots and then get stripped of it during 1-on-1 battles.”

Guillbault, the 2020 Southern Vermont League’s B Division coach of the year, recalled that when he took over for longtime Hartford coach Steve Sass, he inherited only four players with varsity experience and wound up starting five freshmen.

“We might not start five freshmen this season, but we’re a very young team,” he said. “It’s almost like starting over again.”

Hartford High’s Theo Vassiliou, right, dribbles away from Lebanon’s Finn Ericson. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Notes: Lebanon opens its regular season at 7 p.m. Friday against Stevens while Hartford plays its final preseason scrimmage the next day against U32. The Hurricanes open their regular season a week later at Milton… Lebanon received two goals from left-footed junior striker Birhanu Harriman… Hartford senior Simon Spaulding didn’t return to the soccer team, choosing to focus on ice hockey instead… Lebanon played without injured starters Daniel Mladek (back) and Simon Amaro (thigh). The latter was working on a logging site and was struck by a swinging tree trunk, said Raiders coach Rob Johnstone… Hartford athletic director Jeff Moreno tweeted during Tuesday afternoon that Vermont’s high school sports heat rules had postponed the Hurricanes’ football scrimmage and another by the girls soccer team. The news was accompanied by a GIF of a dog wiping its face with a paper towel… Guillbault is 45-53-7 with the Hartford varsity after being promoted following 15 seasons as the program’s JV coach. His primary job is as a chef at Jesse’s restaurant.

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Hartford High players, from left, Peyton Bessette, Matt Hayes and John Cassell listen to coach Kevin Guillbault. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.